Perth isolated but flourishing

By Anne Beston

Set foot in Western Australia's capital city of Perth and it won't be long before someone is telling you you've arrived in the most isolated city in the world.

In my case it's Dan-the-limousine-man of Western Australia Limousines. Ordering a limo costs little more than a taxi in Perth, and if Dan picks you up you get driver and tour guide in one: there are more camels in Western Australia than Saudi Arabia; Western Australia is the largest Australian state, accounting for a third of the continent; there are more millionaires per capita here than anywhere else in the country.

You can't help but see parallels between Western Australia and New Zealand. Both are isolated, protective of their independence and want to be taken seriously by the rest of the world - or in Western Australia's case, by those Flash Harrys over on the east coast, Sydney and Melbourne.

Perth is divided north and south by the beautiful Swan River, a lake-like expanse of water that meets the Indian Ocean at Fremantle, 19km away.

Like the rest of Australia, the city has undergone a prolonged property boom but it's the State Government carrying out the big projects here, putting the railway line underground along the riverfront for more public open space and creating white sandy beaches along the river.

Perth's Kings Park has great views across the Swan to south Perth. It's a 400ha expanse of manicured green lawns, native plants and the "Treetops Walk", a boardwalk on stilts, making the most of the view and the trees.

The coast north of Perth is where the effect of the property boom is most evident. Just about every house here looks as if it was completed yesterday.

The giant Rendezvous Observation Point Hotel, built by Australian entrepreneur Alan Bond for the America's Cup, dominates the waterfront from every vantage point.

The beaches along this coast are packed during summer but even in winter this is a popular surfing spot.

Cottesloe Beach, perhaps the best known, has an abandoned buoy put there to anchor one end of a shark net. But the net kept breaking at the other end so eventually everyone gave up.

On this sunny afternoon a lone surfer bobs about in the waves - sharks seemingly the last thing on his mind.

Shark attacks are rare but the Fremantle "doctor", one of the most famous winds in the world, is not. It blows only in summer but once it starts, it's a battle to stay anywhere near the sand. Everyone then moves inside to the bars and restaurants for afternoon "sessions" of eating, drinking and listening to live bands.

One of the better-known eateries here is the Indiana Tea House, an elegant colonial restaurant and cafe perched right on Cottesloe Beach. There, you can sip coffee or something stronger, watch a surfer catch a wave, and wonder about that shark net.

* Anne Beston travelled as a guest of Tourism Western Australia and Air New Zealand.

Getting there

Air New Zealand has direct flights to Perth five days a week (daily services will resume in December) with fares starting at $399 one-way (plus taxes, etc).

Further information

Information about holidaying in Perth and Western Australia is at:

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